I like to entertain, but when your guest list involves 6 vegetarians, 2 pescatarians, 3 avowed carnivores, 1 semi-religious Jew, 2 Seventh-Day Adventists, and a couple die-hard pork fiends, well, I think you see my challenge? I love my friends and their diversity, but I swear cooking for them can be awfully complicated. This one won't eat this, that one won't eat that. So my goal is always to have a variety of things to satisfy as many people as possible.
We had a party last week and I thought making sausage and smoked cheddar tartlets might fit my criteria (if you have vegetarian friends that faux sausage stuff works well here and I swear no one will notice the difference). I made a grated potato crust for half the tartlets, and the second batch I made with plain old pastry dough because those potato crusts were awfully time consuming. However, the potato ones were delicious, very much redolent of a breakfast of hash browns and sausage, only in a portable morsel. The smoked cheddar adds meatiness, and there's a bit of kick from red pepper and scallions.
Also like many things I do for parties, this dish has a make-ahead element - the crusts can be done far in advance. Even the tarts themselves can be a made a day or two ahead and reheated. I like to entertain, but I also like to make it as stress-free as possible.
Sausage and Smoked Cheddar Tartlets
Makes 2 dozen. Can also be made with a traditional pastry or phyllo crust.
8 cups grated potato
1/4 cup cream or whole milk
16 oz ground sausage
8 oz smoked cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons diced scallions
pinch of red pepper, depending on how spicy your sausage is
1. Heat the oil in a wide pan. Add the grated potatoes (you may need to do this in batches) and saute until softened and lightly browned in spots. Continue in batches, adding more oil as necessary, until all potatoes are cooked.
2. Grease very well 2 dozen muffin tins. Press the potatoes into the tins to form crusts. Make sure there are no gaps in the crust, and err on the side of making thicker crusts. At this point, crust can be frozen up to one week before proceeding.
3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Heat more oil in a wide saute pan. Add the crumbled sausage and cook, crumbling with a spoon, until cooked through and crispy in some places, but still tender in others. Transfer sausage to a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste, let cool slightly.
4. Add the eggs, cream, scallions and pepper to the sausage. Fold in the cheddar cheese. Use a spoon to fill the potato cups with the sausage/cheese mixture.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed and golden. Let cool 10 minutes before very delicately attempting the remove the tartlets from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.